Directed by Anthony Banua-Simon
2020, 90 minutes
The Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi is seen as a paradise of leisure and pristine natural beauty, but these escapist fantasies obscure the colonial displacement, hyper-exploitation of workers and destructive environmental extraction that have actually shaped life on the island for the last 250 years. Cane Fire critically examines the island’s history — and the various strategies by which Hollywood has represented it—through four generations of director Anthony Banua-Simon’s family, who first immigrated to Kauaʻi from the Philippines to work on the sugar plantations. Assembled from a diverse array of sources—from Banua-Simon’s observational footage, to amateur YouTube travelogues, to epic Hollywood dance sequences — Cane Fire offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast Indigenous and working-class residents as "extras" in their own story.
Subjects & Collections
Festivals & Awards
Official Selection - 2021 MoMA Doc Fortnight
Official Selection - 2020 Hot Docs International Film Festival
Official Selection - 2021 Prismatic Ground (Maysles Documentary Center and Screen Slate)
Official Selection - 2021 DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection - 2020 Hawaiʻi International Film Festival
Official Selection - 2021 Asian American International Film Festival
Winner -"Best Feature Documentary" - 2020 Indie Memphis Film Festival
Winner -"Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature" - 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Winner-"Jason D. Mak Award for Social Justice" - 2021 DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon
Winner -"Vijay Mohan Social Change Award" - 2021 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
"The use of movie clips and vintage commercials provides ease of entry into difficult topics, making for an appealing resource for the study of race and income inequality. Professors of American history and politics may find Cane Fire particularly valuable."
- Video Librarian
"[T]remendous educational and moral value."
- Teo Bugbee, The New York Times
"An indispensable watch, Banua-Simon’s first feature focuses on the island of Kauaʻi and the history of its exploitation as a colony, which endures under the guise of statehood."
-Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap
"[A] tale as old as America: vicious colonialism, greedy capitalism, rampant racism, and the erasure of local histories for exploitative ends."
-Robert Daniels, RogerEbert.com
"Through original and deftly assembled archival footage, Anthony Banua-Simon's debut documentary feature CANE FIRE considers the long arc of white, corporate economic & cultural pillaging of Hawaii."
- Patrick Dahl, Screen Slate
"A necessary corrective to the perception of Hawaiian identity that diagnoses the problem of representation in pop culture through the filmmaker’s own deeply personal lens."
-Eric Kohn, Indiewire
"CANE FIRE uncovers not one, but several underreported histories at the same time with equal parts reverence, relevance, and rage."
-Andrew Parker, The Gate
In ‘Cane Fire,’ When an Image of Paradise Creates Loss
The director Anthony Banua-Simon discusses his documentary about how the lives of Hawaii residents have been affected by tourism.